I have recently had the opportunity to attend a couple of events that cut across a wide swath of cultures. I have long been a vocal proponent of reaching across societal boundaries and have lamented the lack of diversity in most of our churches. For me, being at these events was especially rewarding and brought great joy to my heart. To be around people whose upbringing and entire culture has been vastly different from my own was encouraging and eye opening. The food, music, dance and style of worship all differed from that to which I am accustomed. While I found it both exciting and energizing, I could not help but wonder why these types of events are the exception rather than the rule.
Why is there such distrust among the family of God when it comes to cultural differences? One culture does not have all of the answers. We all grow in our walk with Jesus when we invest in the lives of others, regardless of their ethnicity or standing in society. We are all members of one another (Ephesians 4:25), so we should live in unity. There is a great passage in the book of Ephesians that tells us how we are to live with each other: we are to be honest, to only use words that will build up one another, and not be angry (see Ephesians 4:25-29). We often struggle to live this way among our own inner circle, much less when we reach out to those who we deem different from ourselves.
When Jesus came into contact with people, He didn’t consider where a person was from, how wealthy they were, or what their political affiliation may have been, He simply loved them and gave them His full attention. As the Creator of all things, He easily understood that every human soul is the same and He considered each one worthy of His love. Is this the way you and I look at people, or are we more likely to make a snap judgment of them based on hairstyle, clothing or the shade of pigment in their skin? The truth is we tend to huddle together with those who dress, act and look like us, affectively creating cultural silos across the Christian landscape. This is not what Jesus intended for His people; we were called to be one, not many.
We are the children of those who have gone before us, and we bear the scars of prejudice and genocide. Let us not be the ones who carry on the activities and perpetuate the mindsets that lead to division among people in general and the church at large. We are called to a higher standard; we are called to be more than this. We must rise above the fray and diligently do the work that leads to unity among all people. We are followers of Jesus and it is incumbent upon us to begin to live as if that were true.
I certainly have not yet figured all of this out, and I am definitely not above reproach in this area. Like everyone else, I carry the baggage of my generation and upbringing. I am learning though, and I encourage you to do the same. Don’t lock yourself into a cultural silo where everyone looks and acts the same. Branch out and discover what those who are different from you have to offer to your life and your faith. Jesus loves each of us the same, there is no favored class in Heaven. We need to rid ourselves of traditional stereotyping and begin to see the wonder in the great variety that is the human race. Our Creator is creative indeed; may we learn to dance in the beauty of our diversity.